A Delaware couple were preparing to ride in this year's Pelotonia when they lost a family member to cancer -- the second in seven years.

A Delaware couple were preparing to ride in this year's Pelotonia when they lost a family member to cancer -- the second in seven years.

Max and Allison Avner learned July 30 that Allison's uncle, James A. "Jim" Samuels, 68, had died of brain cancer.

Max Avner's mother, Debbie Avner, also died of brain cancer in 2012 at age 62.

Pelotonia is an annual Columbus-based charity bicycle tour and nonprofit organization that raises money for cancer research at Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. This year's bike tour was Aug. 3 and 4.

The Avners had participated in most of the Pelotonia events since the first in 2009.

They were in the Cleveland area Aug. 3 for Samuels' interment, but that wasn't going to stop them from fulfilling the commitment they made to the 2019 Pelotonia.

Because of an injury Max Avner suffered earlier in the year, the couple signed up to ride the shortest route of 25 miles this year. Max Avner rode his 25 miles during the weekend, but in the Cleveland area; Allison Avner rode hers in southern Delaware County after they returned home.

Max Avner said he had ridden his bicycle on hilly terrain before, but his Cuyahoga County ride was twice as hilly as what he would have experienced in central Ohio.

"I rode down into the Chagrin River valley and up a pretty significant hill back to the suburbs," he said.

Samuels, Avner said, belonged to multiple nonprofit and civic organizations and was committed to helping his community.

"I heard from so many people that he never met a stranger," he said.

The Cleveland Jewish News quoted Samuels' sister, Arlene West of Hartford City, Indiana, as saying her brother "had a lot of friends, but everyone thought of him as their best friend. ... When you talk about family, he was every sense of family. Always there for us, no matter what."

Rabbi Joshua Caruso of Fairmount Temple, who spoke at Samuels' services, said he knew Samuels for more than 17 years.

"He was incredibly kind, a connector -- he knew just about everyone in town," Caruso said. "He was a lawyer by trade, but his vocation became commercial real-estate work. He was involved in a lot of civic work. ... He had an enormous amount of involvement in the Jewish Federation of Cleveland."

Among other groups, Samuels was a member of the Wexner Heritage Foundation and the Playhouse Square Foundation.

While this year's ride is over, Avner said donations to the 2019 Pelotonia campaign can be made until Oct. 24 at www.pelotonia.org.

Pelotonia riders make a commitment to deliver all of the money they have pledged to collect, Avner said.

The website's donation page allows donors to make a contribution to the fundraising efforts of a specific Pelotonia rider or team or to the drive's general fund.

Of each rider-raised dollar, the website says, 100 percent goes directly to the James and Solove Research Institute.

In July, Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center -- which includes the James and Solove -- and Pelotonia announced formation of the Pelotonia Institute for Immuno-Oncology, which will grow to 32 faculty members during the next five years.

OSU said Pelotonia has pledged $65 million to directly fund the new institute during that five years.

The new institute will focus on immune-oncology, which manipulates the body's immune system to fight the disease, instead of using radiation or chemotherapy to target cancer cells.

Such research is "the next frontier -- a piece of the puzzle that (researchers) think will help," Avner said.

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